Vol 12, Issue 5
During the obligatory call home to Mama and Papa this weekend, Dad asked me if I was enrolled to vote. I said yes, and asked, knowing full well what the answer would be, what his vote would be.
I've been out to my parents for close to a decade. When I did tell them, it was after a Pride rally, and in tears, I told my mum first. She was, and always has been, completely fine—bar some concern about the discrimination I would face in life. Dad, being a Catholic so staunch that he believes that George Pell is being slandered by the left wing media, warned me “not to shove it down people's throats.”
In the spirit of attempting to understand that people are idiosyncratic and complex, and that their opinions may cause harm without them meaning for it to be so, I asked him not “Why,” but “What has been an era with social cohesion and equality?” His answer was the 1950s.
See, back then, people valued the family. People valued togetherness and community. Identity politics and political correctness were but distant abstract concepts with no meaningful weight to add to public discourse. I noted that gay people did exist and, thinking of Alan Turing (who was chemically castrated because his sexuality was deemed ‘gross indecency’ under British law of the day), were subjugated in nearly every aspect of their existence.
“No, they just existed and nobody minded. They weren't making the scenes they are today. The gays didn't even want marriage. They wanted to disband marriage. But now they want to destroy marriage from the inside.”
Call him an isolated example on the fringes—one who will never be convinced through any amount of campaigning or persuasion—but it is an example of the logic from the ‘No’ voters. Call me a cynic, but I'm not actually convinced that LGBTIQ people are as accepted as the wider metropolitan public would like to believe (if you don’t believe me, I invite you to walk down Sydney Rd holding the hand of someone who shares your gender). When we say that we need to reason with the other side, and win the fight through the strength of persuasion, I’ve no need to wonder at whose expense this will be. LGBTIQ elders are astounding in how much work they have done for this community, but for those in rural areas, or with religious parents, or who are yet to come out (or all of the above, as was my case), this plebiscite will be horrendous.
No, we didn't reach where we are today without a longstanding campaign to win over hearts and minds, as one anonymous De Minimis commenter wrote last week. But we sure as shit didn't get here by politely asking, either. Before Stonewall, there was the Mattachine society. After the AIDS crisis (let us never forget that it was once deemed ‘gay cancer’) there was ACT UP. In this country, systemic homophobia saw many of the deaths caused by gay-hate bashings across major cities go unprosecuted by police, and ignored by the wider public. It is, quite frankly, ahistorical rubbish to hold the view that, with regards to the LGBTIQ community, ours were rights that gradually shifted over time by patiently listening to bigotry and using logic and reason to combat it. Everything we have now is the result of an unimaginable amount of pain and anger; ultimately, it is because of the refusal of those before us to stay in the margins.
Sure, people will vote yes. People will vote no. A larger majority than I think we realise will abstain from voting at all, and in the midst of this, the underlying conclusion is that ours is a Parliament that cannot act as it has been prescribed to do. It is supposed that it is the ‘will of the people’ embodied in the election of our executives, and yet each government has failed to take any meaningful action in spite of the fact that a wide majority of Australians support Marriage Equality (though I have my doubts). Contrast that with the ease in which Howard’s amendment to the Marriage Act managed to pass through, and perhaps you’ll understand why I am wary at best about the results of this plebiscite—if it goes ahead at all. Equality takes time—but for a near-decade of rallying, engaging Parliamentarians, and arguing against proponents, I’ve finished tolerating poor logic that I’m expected to brush off with ease. If an aspect of my identity is to be politicised in this way, then I will abso-fucking-lutely appeal with emotion, as well as reason. I owe my current ability to hold hands with my girlfriend in public to trans women throwing bricks at cops—not from trying to convince Turnbull that I’m Just Like Him.
Tilly Houghton is a second-year JD student who isn't so much 'Okay to be Gay' as she is 'Seize the Means of Production and while you're at it, do it covered in glitter’
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